inclusive vs. exclusive pronoun (Mark 10:37)

Many languages distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first-person plural pronouns (“we”). The inclusive “we” specifically includes the addressee (“you and I and possibly others”), while the exclusive “we” specifically excludes the addressee (“he/she/they and I, but not you”). This grammatical distinction is called “clusivity.” While Semitic languages such as Hebrew or most Indo-European languages such as Greek or English do not make that distinction, translators of languages with that distinction have to make a choice every time they encounter “we” or a form thereof (in English: “we,” “our,” or “us”).

For this verse, translators typically select the exclusive form (excluding Jesus).

Source: Velma Pickett and Florence Cowan in Notes on Translation January 1962, p. 1ff.

formal pronoun: disciples addressing Jesus

Like many languages (but unlike Greek or Hebrew or English), Tuvan uses a formal vs. informal 2nd person pronoun (a familiar vs. a respectful “you”). Unlike other languages that have this feature, however, the translators of the Tuvan Bible have attempted to be very consistent in using the different forms of address in every case a 2nd person pronoun has to be used in the translation of the biblical text.

As Voinov shows in Pronominal Theology in Translating the Gospels (in: The Bible Translator 2002, p. 210ff.), the choice to use either of the pronouns many times involved theological judgment. While the formal pronoun can signal personal distance or a social/power distance between the speaker and addressee, the informal pronoun can indicate familiarity or social/power equality between speaker and addressee.

Here, individual or several disciples address Jesus with the formal pronoun, expressing respect. Compare this to how that address changes after the resurrection.

In most Dutch translations, the disciples address Jesus before and after the resurrection with the formal pronoun.

complete verse (Mark 10:37)

Following are a number of back-translations of Mark 10:37:

  • Uma: “They said: ‘When you (sing.) show your (sing.) power and you become King, allow us (excl.) to govern with you (sing.), one on your (sing.) right, one on your (sing.) left.'” (Source: Uma Back Translation)
  • Yakan: “They answered, they said, ‘We (excl.) want, when you already sit and rule, that you seat us (excl.) at your side, one on your right and one on your left.'” (Source: Yakan Back Translation)
  • Western Bukidnon Manobo: “And they said, ‘We ask that in the future when you sit on your seat of ruling let us also sit there, one on your right and the other on your left.'” (Source: Western Bukidnon Manobo Back Translation)
  • Kankanaey: “‘When you (singular) are honored in your (singular) ruling, please seat us (excl.) on your (singular) right and left,’ they said answering.” (Source: Kankanaey Back Translation)
  • Tagbanwa: “Those two replied saying, ‘Hopefuly grant to us the right that right-beside you is where we will sit there in your praiseworthiness/glory. One on your right and one on the left.'” (Source: Tagbanwa Back Translation)